Webinar Recap: The ADA & Law Firm Website Accessibility: Are You at Risk?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to ensure public accommodations were accessible to everyone. But how does the ADA affect the public accommodations that have developed so robustly on the internet in the decades since the law was passed? Is your law firm’s website at risk of violating the ADA?
In this webinar, Lawmatics CEO Matt Spiegel welcomes Jeff Lantz and Desire’e Martinelli of Esquire Interactive to explore these questions and more. Here are some of the highlights:
Who may be affected by website accessibility matters?
A broad range of disabilities or impairments may affect a person’s experience of a website. A person with one of the following disabilities or impairments may use assistive technology, such as screen readers or closed captioning, to navigate a website and its contents:.
- Visually impaired (legally or completely blind)
- Physically impaired (motor/dexterity disabilities)
- Other disabilities (such as those affected by flashing technologies)
Significant uncertainty remains about what exactly must be done for websites to comply with the ADA, however website owners have broad discretion in implementing best practices for website accessibility.
What’s the case history on website accessibility and ADA compliance?
Two recent court cases have given some insight into how websites are to comply with the ADA:
- Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, No. 17-55504 (9th Cir. 2019) — If you sell goods and services directly on your website, it is critical that customers with different disabilities can understand and purchase the goods and services available.
- Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 17-13467 (11th Cir. 2021) — While it was initially thought that Gil would formalize a distinction between sales and non-sales websites in terms of ADA compliance, a later appellate decision voided such a distinction.
While there are still no compliance standards, the Department of Justice provided guidance in March of 2022 on the flexibility businesses have in making their websites accessible. Businesses should consider the following matters regarding accessibility:
- Color contrast
- Color text cues
- Alternative text
- Video captions
- Online forms
- Text size/zoom
- Keyboard navigation
What are common ways websites violate the ADA?
The lack of specific requirements to make a website comply with the ADA did not stop the DoJ from initiating actions. Common areas of concern are:
- Images, buttons, and form fields are unlabeled or have inaccurate alt text
- Pop-ups are not reported to screen readers
- Tables are missing header information
- Missing or incorrect captions
Are there any guidelines for making my website accessible?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to explain how to make web content more accessible for individuals with disabilities. WCAG covers webpages, applications, and other digital content in the form of “Success Guidelines.”
The guidelines cover a wide range of matters, such as text size, contrast, navigation, website structure, alt tags, movement, and more. The guidelines are organized under the following four principles:
- Perceivable (captions, contrast)
- Operable (organization and navigation)
- Understandable (labels, user input matters)
- Robust (coding tags)
An accessibility compliance checker is a handy tool to scan your website for potential gaps in compliance, like missing alternative text or empty links. and should consider adding a way to report accessibility problems to the website owner.
Should I use an accessibility plugin for my website?
An accessibility plugin allows users to modify website features such as text size and color contrast to optimize accessibility. Although such a tool can help users understand how their information is presented, it may interfere with screen readers, ultimately making a website less accessible for some users.
Final notes and takeaways
The first step in evaluating your website’s accessibility is determining what level of compliance will be the standard for your website. This may follow existing guidelines, like WCAG, or you may choose to develop your own standards. Then, decide which of your website’s most frequently visited pages you’ll audit first. After an audit is completed, determine the process you’ll use to remediate any aspects of your website that may be noncompliant with the ADA.
Although compliance flexibility gives website owners more choices in how they make their website accessible, some of the resulting ambiguity can make it hard to know where to start. Before you commit to a costly audit or remediation process, understand your risk of noncompliance, and make a strategic decision about your firm’s approach.
To learn more about best practices for making your website ADA compliant, and to see more frequently asked questions answered, watch a recording of the full webinar.
Webinar Slide Deck